Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Space Clutter

A quick "painting" in Photoshop this evening, about an hour. There's clutter in space. It's kind of like my apartment, but in seven dimensions. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Iris of Angelic Air

Around the early 90s I did many flower pictures, especially of irises. I was new to the Washington, DC area and I was delighted by the abundance of flowers in spring there. I visited gardens and an entire farm devoted to growing big iris flowers, the kind known as "German bearded irises." I took dozens and dozens of photographs and then did studies of the flowers in all the rainbow colors they came in. I often added angelic, fairy, or other fantasy elements to my irises, and this is one of them. It's called "Iris of Angelic Air," and was painted in 1991. Watercolor on illustration board, 7" x 10". These pictures were successful at fantasy convention art shows and I sold every one that I made. Like my esoteric angels, I don't do them any more, but I wouldn't refuse to do another one if I felt like it. 

You (my handful of readers) may be wondering why I'm putting up so many archival pieces on "Art By-Products." Am I slacking off? No, I am working on another project which I hope to show in 2009, not on this Blog but on my "Noantri World" sub-site. I'll tell you more about this as soon as I finish it. It has to do with modern architecture, so stay tuned.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Kabbalistic Colors

Back in the late 80s I did a lot of esoteric (not really the same as "occult") studies. I learned about Kabbalah both from the traditional Jewish perspective and from the Western Esoteric tradition that adapted the Jewish philosophy in the Renaissance and centuries afterward. One of the schools of Kabbalistic esotericism (which in no way resembles the cult-ish stuff professed by various celebrities) involved a lot of colorful mental visualization. Since I like spirituality with bright colors and good designs, this attracted me. It was not at all Jewish; it was actually 19th and early 20th century English, and most of the proponents and writers were English. One of the books I worked with was a Kabbalistic inner visualization manual called "The Book of Celestial Images," by a gent called A.C. Highfield. This book is out of print but it's available used at various online vendors. It was a treasury of images that I could put into artwork. 

In those archaic days before Photoshop, I assembled graphic designs from cut paper that I glued onto an airbrushed background. The colors were provided by "Color-Aid," which some older designers remember. It is still available, as the site shows, but it is expensive. Color-Aid paper was thick and the color was added to the paper by silk-screening rather than actually coloring the paper. That made a nice flat non-reflective surface. You could use it plain or draw or paint over it. The trouble was that the surface was fragile and if you bent it, the color would flake off. Many of these compositions I did with Color-Aid have deteriorated, especially if they were stacked against each other. 

This one is well-preserved and in my own collection, dated January 1987, 7" x 10". The colors were determined by visionaries who synesthetically saw the Hebrew letters not only as colors, but as parts of the human body, both male and female. Therefore the colors in this figure correspond to the letters in the name of the angel it represents, which is the "Chai Ha Kodesh" (Holy Living Creature) of Kether, the top station on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. The symbol-system got quite complicated as color was stacked on top of color and Hebrew letters became emblems and elaborate scenes were built from names, symbols, and characters. After a while for me it got too much like work, so I moved away from it. I still have the books so I could return to the symbol-world if I got the inspiration.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Photoshop practice

Here's something I created in Photoshop to practice modeling and texture. It has a slightly mid-century-modernist look to it as that's what I've been paying a lot of attention to these days. The central red thing is inspired by a pepper. 

In other news, I managed through persistence and patience to finally find and download the "legacy" driver for my Zen Xtra Creative Nomad MP3 player. It is now functioning again and is not yet on the scrap heap. I keep wondering what "Creative Nomad Zen" would look like. It is one of the more impossible and intriguing cultural mash-ups as a name for a commercial product. Maybe it doesn't fascinate you as much as it does me. 

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Edouard Mesert in memoriam

I received news today that a long-time friend of mine, Edouard Mesert, passed away from an unspecified illness on December 14th of 2008. I don't know how old he was, but I would guess in his late forties. He was a fellow fantasy fan as well as a devout Christian and a member of my religious group. He loved "traditional" horror characters such as vampires and werewolves, and he also loved antique cars. He once owned a Chevy from the 1970s that he called "Vlad the Impala." Edouard enjoyed fantasy costumes and would dress as an elegant vampire at conventions. He loved the vampire stories of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and the Darkover books of Marion Zimmer Bradley. 

In 1995 he commissioned me to do this portrait of him, lovingly embraced by a sexy werewolf. (Watercolor on board, 9 1/2" x 11".) I enjoyed putting a "real" person into a fantasy world. Later on he and his partner Charles moved to Phoenix, Arizona, so I didn't get to see him that often, though he did make it back East in 2006 for the annual retreat of my religious group. He said that being with our group brought him great spiritual solace and renewal.

Now Edouard, who was so involved with the world of the undead, is now with the world of the dead, or perhaps more, the world of the imaginal, meeting his beloved characters on an equal level of reality.  

Friday, December 26, 2008

Anael, the Green Angel

Here's another one of my nametag miniatures from many years ago. I encountered the Archangel Anael during some of my esoteric studies in the late 70s. Anael (sometimes cited as "Haniel") was one of the seven main archangels who didn't get into the Bible or the other religious writings of the time. He was the angel of the planet Venus, and of things that were green and coppery (since copper rusts to a green color). He was also guardian of this time of the winter, around the Solstice and Christmas. For a while he was my personal choice for guardian angel so I did this miniature in his honor. He's holding the monogram (built from my mundane name) that I sign my artwork with. The black bar originally had the Detested Mundane Name but I have erased it and left it blank. Anael is no longer my guardian angel and has not been for a long time. I'm not sure who occupies that post now. 

Watercolor and ink on thick paper, 3 1/2" x 2 1/4". Dated November 1981 (on the back).

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Bargain Bubbly

I have been knocking out the signs by the dozen during the holiday season. On Christmas Eve (Wednesday) I did four signs, about one every hour, for "bargain bubbly." These are inexpensive sparkling wines that you can buy a lot of to pass around at New Year's. The signboards are about 2 1/2 feet square, and the writing is done in opaque acrylic markers on Masonite painted with black "chalkboard" spray paint. I think that Trader Joe's must keep Rust-Oleum in business by using far more chalkboard paint than would be called for in "normal" uses such as classrooms or kids' rooms. I think about how much of the stuff we use when I have to go get more. Our markers are also "re-purposed" (there's another good 2000s buzzword for you). They are originally marketed to crafters who like decorating wooden knicknacks. When I order new supplies I wonder what the vendor (a craft supply place called "") thinks we do with all the dozens of markers we buy. I helpfully added on one order that we were signmakers, just to keep things from being too unnatural.  

Oh by the way, Merry Christmas everyone, and a happy Solstice and Chanukah too.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Digital Dhalgren

Here we are again in the world of Samuel R. Delany's DHALGREN. This is inspired by a scene in this nightmarish book where a giant orange sun unexpectedly rises over the destroyed city, terrifying the inhabitants, and then just as oddly disappears. Done in Photoshop.

The fantasy art world is full of destroyed and "post-apocalyptic" cities; Delany was not the first to imagine one but he was one of the more influential. I could do lots of DHALGREN-inspired illustrations if I were not stopped. I have a fondness for images of urban destruction and abandonment, and so do lots of other people; the Web is loaded with sites depicting urban decay. It's a cliche by now, so the challenge is to make it look interesting. 

As an artist I've tended to stay away from "dark" subject matter and concentrate on clear colors, upbeat themes, and heroic or pretty characters. Even my abstractions are designed to have a kind of space-age uplift to them. I'm trying to be nice and positive here, but sometimes I would like to explore the darker regions of the imaginal world. I wonder whether that would corrupt me and turn me into one of those nasty little people who make endless pictures of skulls and squids and zombies and things with enormous teeth. Is there any value to such exploration? Only the pixels will tell. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Year Graphics

Here's my newest sign for Trader Joe's sparkling fruit and berry sodas. The numbers are big because that's what their sign marketing standards insist on. I'm trying a bit of new graphic design for this one, at least on the border and the top half. We'll be ringing in the new year of 1964, and after the terrible events of 1963, we can all use a bit of optimism and hope. We'll be sending more astronauts into space, and this summer the New York World's Fair will open! I hope I can go see the "Futurama" which will feature the city as it will be in 2000!...what? it's 2008? Almost 2009? What happened? Where's the future? Is this it? 

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dhalgren Illustration

Dhalgren, a book first published in 1975 by the avant-garde science fiction author Samuel L. Delany, is often considered unreadable. That's why I decided to read it in 1994, all the way through, to see why it was so controversial. I managed to get through the whole book and it was quite memorable, though definitely not inspiring or uplifting. I did some small illustrations from it at the time and am still considering doing more of them, especially in digital form. This image above shows the protagonist, a mentally addled young man who wanders around the destroyed city wearing only one shoe (a fetishistic touch that Delany repeats in other books). 

Ink, pencils, and gouache on grey paper, 11" x 8 1/2", 1994. It was quite a job to recover the original colors from the faded slide, and I had to re-color the figure in Photoshop. Every day I struggle with obsolete media which are on the edge of fading into destruction. For instance, I have so far failed to re-activate the driver software and contact for an MP3 music player ("Creative Nomad Zen Xtra") which I acquired in 2004. As of now, it's a hunk of unusable junk, not worth the effort to work on. What cherished artifact or image will be next on the media trash heap?

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Sketchers are always drawing the customers drinking coffee at Starbucks (and other coffee houses) but not too many depict the people who make it possible, namely the baristas. If you go to a coffee house often, you will make friends with the people who work there, not only the ones who prepare the coffee but the ones who clean up the place and work in the back doing accounts, inventory, etc. I like to draw pictures of these people.

This guy in the green apron has worked at my regular Starbucks for more than 5 years. He also used to work at Trader Joe's. In October 2003, he told me that Trader Joe's was hiring artists, and that I should go show some of the work I had done for Starbucks to the Trader Joe's people. The rest was history, at least for me. Now I've been at TrJ's more than 5 years. Starbucks people work very hard and they deserve "venti" cups of respect.

Darkover Village

In the mid-80s, not only was I drawing pictures of Cambridge houses and New England coastal amusement parks, I was doing a lot of "fan art" for small-circulation magazines. These were independently published with editions of no more than 100, and usually much less than that. These "fanzines" contained stories and illustrations about characters and scenes borrowed from an author's imaginary world. Almost all of my illustrations for these publications were unpaid, though at some points the editor managed to pay me a few dollars for my efforts. I received a complimentary copy of anything my art appeared in. Printed paper fanzines have all but disappeared, as the whole fanzine thing has now migrated online.

Darkover, the world of the red sun, had more than one fanzine. I did art for many of them, and this little sketch is a piece of "zine" art. I imagined the villages of Darkover to be these Renaissance European, stone and stucco affairs, with cobbled streets, creaky carts, and picturesque signs for the illiterate inhabitants. In that character, I drew Darkover art as if it were woodcuts or early printed illustrations. I had no idea that I'd be scanning them into digital form. This little sketch, 3" x 5", dates from 1984.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Iconic Googie Doo Wop Style

I'm doing concept sketches (in Adobe Illustrator) for re-decorating my Trader Joe's. This storewide re-do will start after the holiday busy-ness is over, when we have some time to do big projects. The style I've chosen is known by many names, such as "Googie" in the West, "doo-wop" in New Jersey, and also "Populuxe" or "Streamlined." It was popular in the late 50s and early to mid-60s, along with cars adorned with fins and chrome, shiny diners, and drive-in movies. This iconic style brings a playful, colorful look to....

...Did I just say "iconic?" Good grief! I've proved my own point! What point? That if you read any article written this year that is longer than two paragraphs, you will find the word "iconic" used somewhere. All right, not in an article about nuclear physics (the "iconic" main building at Fermilab) or classical music (the "iconic" Herbert Von Karajan) and I am no statistician. But play along. Pick any article written for a popular print medium and see how long it takes for the writer to use "iconic." Every time you see the word "iconic," take a drink. You'll be merry and bright in no time.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Eudemon Lounge off season

This drawing dates from those distant days of my life in the mid-80s when I was doing sketches of my Cambridge neighborhood and the shabby but evocative amusement parks of the Massachusetts coast. This one is from Nantasket Beach on the shore south of Boston. There used to be an amusement park named "Paragon Park" there, and it had a famous wooden roller coaster. The park is no more, but the coaster lives on as "The Wild One" at Six Flags in Mitchellville, Maryland. (Blogger's note about amusement park art: The "Himalaya" ride I depicted and posted in the December 3rd entry here was at Paragon Park, not Salisbury Beach as I mistakenly stated.)

Paragon Park was a traditional amusement park, a conglomeration of private entertainments, motels, rides, attractions, and eateries rather than an "integrated" theme park. One of the attractions was a nightclub, bar, and eatery called "Mr. Nick's Eudemon Lounge." Mr. Nick was Greek, and "Eudemon" means "Happy" in modern Greek. The word comes from the ancient Greek eudaimon, where "eu" means "good, or happy" and "daimon" means "god" or "spirit," hence "good spirit." The club had a sign out front that depicted a cute red devil with a pitchfork and a motto that said something like "Oh, You Demon, you!" It was one of the few places at Paragon Park that stayed open all year round. 

It's gone forever, and has been for more than twenty years. This drawing depicts the back of the Eudemon Lounge as well as the other buildings near it. These are all gone, razed to make way for condominiums. 

I did this drawing in grey ink, something I used back then to give a pencil-like quality to an ink drawing. I don't use grey ink any more because it's hard to scan and reproduce. The original drawing is faded, just like the places it depicts. In my memory I can still smell the greasy breaded fish frying in the beachside restaurants, though it is now perpetually off season at Paragon Park.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lovesick in Atlantis

I was still new to the Northern Virginia area when I did this piece. My notes say that I did it in the one-room apartment I had in Arlington, which I only occupied for one year (1988-1989). The piece is called "Lovesick in Atlantis," and is an illustration from one of "Darkover" author Marion Zimmer Bradley's romance/fantasy stories set in legendary Atlantis. The heroine still has red hair, of course. Architecturally clever people will recognize the setting I used: it's the pool and colonnade at "San Simeon," the palace that William Randolph Hearst built near Santa Barbara, California.

The painting is 8" x 10", and is painted in gouache (opaque watercolor) on illustration board, in May 1989. I was experimenting with gouache at that time, and soon abandoned it for acrylic, which is much more durable. It was bought by a collector soon after it was painted, and it has probably disappeared forever by now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Pavilion of 1964

I have been doing image research on the 1964-65 New York World's Fair, ostensibly to gather examples for a "vintage" graphics look for my Trader Joe's work. But I am also re-living my own memories of that time, when I was eleven years old. I went to the 1964 New York World's Fair with my parents and I vividly remember it. I love World's Fairs, along with theme parks like Disney World's "Epcot Center" which closely resemble them. These are some of the only places where fantasy architecture can be built that ordinary people see and enjoy and actually walk through. World's Fairs and theme parks are full of color and domes and swooping lines and cheerful visions of the future (which we no longer have). And you can get cool stuff. Somewhere buried in the clutter of my old parents' house are some collectibles from the '64 World's Fair. I currently have a souvenir highball glass (value unknown) from the Fair depicting the "Hall of Science." 

The drawing above is a sketch from an old photo of the Johnson's Wax pavilion and the "Golden Rondelle" theater. The Golden Rondelle, somewhat re-designed and without the arched canopy, was moved to the Johnson's Wax corporate headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin (the headquarters with the famous Frank Lloyd Wright buildings) and is still in use as an auditorium and film theater. 

Back in 1964: I also vividly remember that when my parents decided not to go back to the fair, and thus I would not see it again, I pitched a terrible fit of anger and tears that lasted for hours. If something like that fair existed now (at least somewhere in the USA) I would definitely try to go. I visited Epcot Center in 1998, and it was almost as good, so maybe I will try to get back to Florida.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More architectural Americana

Here's another one of  my architectural detail sketches, done in Cambridge in the mid-80s. This one's about 5 inches square. I would use tiny scraps of illustration board left over from cutting the pieces for larger artwork. I sketched on site using a Rapidograph pen filled with brown ink. I don't use Rapidograph much any more, since they were so hard to maintain. Faber-Castell's "Pitt" pens are my sketcher of choice. As with the other drawings, I would note the colors with water-soluble colored pencils, then go home and add watercolor to it. 

In other news, By-Product readers are now invited to visit the revamped and modernized Pyracantha main website at There is art to see, and the companion art blog to this one, "Quality Art Product." There is also a music section. Other sections are still in development. Profuse thanks to my Webmistress for her patience and skill. 

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Starbucks Looks Forward to 2009

I did the design today for the only Starbucks daring enough to allow me to do their coffee ad board. (Starbucks official policy is that only the actual employees can do designs on the board.) Instead of the usual Christmas malarkey, I skipped over to the New Year and the Inauguration, which is going to be a huge thing here in the DC area. Raise a Starbucks espresso truffle to the New Year and hope for the best! I suspect however that Year 2009 will bring some heavy life changes for me regarding my family. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Holiday Screams

Now, back to current work. As the holiday season progresses we signmakers are being asked to make louder, brighter, and bigger signs. It's dark and cold outside and shoppers are tired and stressed. The manager asks me to make signs that "scream." He wants more and more intensity.

This is a temporary matter. After the holiday season we are planning to do a whole new look of bright, cheerful, and focused signage. Meanwhile, I designed this gift card sign with shiny metallic papers and big block letters, in the hope that people will realize that a Trader Joe's gift card is a really good idea for those people who already have loads of cluttery stuff and should get consumable presents that disappear. It's good for people like co-workers whose preferences you might not know. You can send a gift card through the mail, too. It works out quite well, as long as the recipient lives near a Trader Joe's. If they don't, then a selection of TJ's dry goodies and sweets makes an excellent "care package." (This ad was not paid for by Trader Joe's, though I suppose in essence it was, since they pay me.)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Malachite Mini-Universe

In my fannish days when I went to a lot of science fiction conventions, it was popular to wear an artistic namebadge as well as your "official" convention nametag. I was commissioned to do many of these for friends, and I also did a number of them for myself. They are all 3 1/2 inches by 2 1/4 inches, designed to fit into a plastic cardholder fastened to your clothing (or costume) by a pin in the back. Mine were mostly watercolor and gouache on thick paper. The design always had to have room for a frame where the name would go. This one has my Detested Mundane Name on it, since I had not yet found another name to go by. I have removed the Detested Mundane Name with the miracle of Photoshop, leaving only the background color of the original lettering. The little card was somewhat worn since not only had it been used at a convention but it had been stuck to the inside of a portfolio filled with other artwork which rubbed against it. So I have again used technical magic to restore the freshness of this image, which was done in 1977. Its title is "Malachite Universe," and you can see the textures of malachite semi-precious stone in the design. See, even then I was working with geometric abstraction just as I do now, but only in miniatures. In those days I was much more involved with Green than with Orange, and I did a lot of images in variations of that color. I hardly ever use green in a painting nowadays, unless it's for landscaping.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sunlit Porch, Cambridge

This is one of my favorite architectural studies of houses in Cambridge, Mass. It dates from the mid-'80s. I drew it on site though as usual I filled in the colors from my notes back in the studio. Life was different then. I could sit on my folding stool on the sidewalk in an urban area doing a drawing and no one would bother me. I've only tried it in Falls Church a few times. It's easiest if I can sit in my car and draw. I haven't done an outdoor drawing in a while because it got cold. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Wicked Snake Priestess

As Corelli's fantasy tale ARDATH continues, "Theos," our modern poet-hero from 1889, transported back five thousand years to the fabulous decadent city of Al-Kyris, meets a terrifying yet totally seductive character. She is Lysia, the young and needless to say gorgeous Priestess of the Sun and the Snakes. She is introduced wearing a full robe of gold lame, while riding on her ornate river barge. But most of the time she wears almost nothing but dazzling jewelry.

Theos is smitten, and must pursue her, though he is also in love with the Poet Laureate Sah-Luma. Sah-Luma has a bit of a thing for Lysia, too. Bisexual Love Triangle, 1889 style! To complicate matters, Lysia is having a forbidden affair with the King of the realm, even though a prophecy states: "When the Snake Priestess/is the King's Mistress,/Then falls Al-Kyris!" She's a busy gal. She also has to perform a lot of ceremonies, accompanied by her animals "Nagaya" the great python and "Aizif" the tigress. And then by night, she hosts orgies in her jewel-encrusted rotunda playroom.

I am not making any of this up. Marie Corelli did, which is why she's one of my favorite fantasy authors ever. I made dozens and dozens of illustrations for this book and a couple of other Corelli titles, between the late 60s and 1994. I have not made a Corelli illustration since 1994, though I have sometimes contemplated starting up again. But why? Could I do anything inspired by Corelli that does not look like either an Alma-Tadema pastiche, or a still from D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance," or some pulp fantasy cover? Y'see, it's like this. Back in the old days, I didn't know that fantasy art was unoriginal and in bad taste. I just did it because it was fun. Sometimes I sold one or two of them, but most of them are still in my collection, and I'm scanning them now. The one you see above was painted in 1980, acrylic on illustration board, 6" x 11". It was sold at Noreascon II, the World Science Fiction Convention, which was held in Boston that year. This image was scanned from a dusty old color slide.

Enough of this nostalgia...I wonder what Corelli illustrations would look like in Photoshop....?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Prince of Poets

Long ago, I found a worn old fantasy book in a rummage sale at a local market. It was called ARDATH, and it was written by Marie Corelli, an author who flourished in the late 19th and early 20th century. Corelli was wildly popular during her time but also much despised for her alleged bad taste. ARDATH was a fantasy adventure, published in 1889, about a young man, a poet, whose career was going badly and who seriously doubted his own talent. He goes to visit a mysterious monk and is given instructions to proceed to the Middle East, to a place called "Ardath." When he gets there, he spends the night in a field full of mind-altering flowers, and falls into a time-traveling hallucinatory dream. In the dream, he is in a fabulous city named "Al-Kyris," and he meets all sorts of characters, including a beautiful young man who is the Poet Laureate of this ancient and long-lost realm. Our hero falls in love with the Poet Laureate, who somehow resembles him closely. This image depicts the Poet Laureate, whose name is "Sah-Luma." Sah-Luma lives a life of luxury and a fair amount of debauchery, and our modern (1889 that is) hero is drawn into that life as Sah-Luma's companion.

This little image, about 4 inches by 7.5 inches, was done in ink and watercolor in 1975. It won an award for "Best Fantasy Picture" in the Amateur class at Boskone 1978. Now, in 2008, it has been raised from dusty storage to face the harsh light of the scanner and the myriad points of pixelation. 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gift Basket Idea

Give something even your relatives will like...a Trader Joe's gift certificate! This little sign, 4" square, will designate items suggested for baskets full of goodies.
Done in Photoshop, with constant thoughts of chocolate.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Snow Moon

It's that time of year again, and we in the Washington DC area had our first snow. It was so poetic, especially the grumbling and cursing part. I continue to wallow in my old artistic efforts which I am shoving around in the dust. I haven't done anything new in more than a week, other than the restaurant decorations, which are now installed and have earned me four gourmet dinners. I did this picture above, in 1980. The hazy moon through high clouds, a sure sign of snow to come, was done with my big new art tool of the time, a Paasche airbrush. It may have been the very first time I used the airbrush on a painting. I still have the simple air compressor engine and a couple of different airbrush painting guns, and it all still works. Ink and gouache airbrush spray on dark blue paper, mounted on black matboard, about 8" x 10".

Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Just in case you wanted to know what new art by-products I was making, here it is: images of Christmas trees for a local restaurant's windows. I get paid in trade: gourmet dinners at the restaurant. These are four of a set of eight I did, plus some other less decorated ones for background. Spray paint and acrylic markers on foamboard, each about 30 inches tall. They will be lined up in a row in the windows. After the Christmas season, as an article I once read put it, their brief moment of cheer will be followed by an eternity buried in a landfill. 

Friday, December 5, 2008

Roman Rooflines

At least when it comes to drawing architecture, I'm no better now than I was in 1976, when I did this study of Roman rooflines and an adjacent church facade. I don't know whether that gives me comfort or annoys me. If I were to go back to that same spot and draw the same subject, it would probably come out just the same. In America I don't usually have wonderful Italianate decorative cornices to draw, just porches with white railings, but I still want to draw architecture. Maybe I really should have been an architect. I would have ended up remodeling people's garages and building boring office buildings (at best) but at least I would be something respectable rather than a signmaker advertising vegetables. Architects still get respect despite the excesses of real and fictional architects. I would love to go back to Rome. 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Majestic Library of Congress hall

In the mid 80s I still lived in Cambridge, but I used to go to the Washington, DC area regularly to visit friends. I also did plenty of sketching. I did this drawing on site in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress. It took between 2 and 3 hours to do and is about 12" x 9". I moved to the DC area in 1988 and I used to visit the Library of Congress a lot when I was doing my research on Zoroastrianism in the mid-1990s. Now I never go there; my interests have moved elsewhere. 

My project to scan my drawing and art archives is taking up the time I would otherwise use to produce new sketches (art by-products). Also I am still not completely unpacked from my Baltimore convention. I will continue to entertain you from my backlog until more fresh product is available.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Lost Amusements

In the early and mid-80s I had a friend who was obsessed with amusement parks. She and I would go to parks on the Massachusetts coast, and while she was knocking herself silly on rides and the roller coaster, I would draw pictures. This one was done sometime in 1984 at the Salisbury Beach amusement area on Massachusetts' north shore. It depicts the "Himalaya," a carousel-like ride which also bumped you up and down. I still remember the barker calling out "And now we're gonna go around REAL FAST!" 

The picture has faded a lot since I drew it, so I decided to restore the colors with Photoshop. Even so, there isn't much I can do to enhance the brown ink lines, which are now a pale orangish color. For all I know, the "Himalaya" ride still exists. There is still an amusement park at Salisbury Beach. Maybe I'll go there again someday.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Darkover Is Over

I'm back from DarkoverCon which was in Timonium, Maryland just north of Baltimore. This convention has gone on for 31 years, which is in my opinion about 10 years too long. The 2008 iteration of this gathering was poorly attended, since most of the people who would come to it are forever teetering on the edge of destitution. The bad economy kept a fair number of them from coming. Those who did, except for the few young children and teens, seemed depressed and dispirited. The same people come each year, mostly, and I have watched them become more and more physically decrepit. Once upon a time, DarkoverCon was full of a kind of swashbuckling bravado, but twenty years later it had none of it; the attendees seemed especially damaged, with many of them hobbling around on canes or riding little scooters. They were disheveled and unkempt, their pseudo-medieval clothes ragged and stained; they looked like one of Brueghel's satirical paintings. I am, of course, one of this group, so perhaps I look as worn-out to them as they do to me. 

I showed some of my "space abstraction" paintings, with prohibitively high "gallery" prices, since I need to save these pieces for a "mainstream" gallery show. Thus I didn't sell any of them. I got a number of positive comments for "The Photons of Pentecost." But I am just glad that picture, and the convention, is over.